Press groups report 61 cases of attacks vs media since January 2019

Press groups report 61 cases of attacks vs media since January 2019
Supporters and employees of ABS-CBN, the country's largest broadcast network, hold placards as they join a protest in front of the ABS-CBN building in Manila on Feb. 21, 2020.
AFP / Basilio Sepe

MANILA, Philippines — Over 60 cases of attacks against members of the Philippine press were recorded since January 2019, including the deaths of three journalists, a network of media groups said Monday.

A day after the commemoration of the World Press Freedom Day, the Freedom For Media, Freedom for All network said it had documented 61 incidents of attacks and threats against journalists between January 1, 2019 to April 30,2020.

Aside from killings, the media organizations also documented the following:

  • 25 incidents of intimidation
  • 7 incidents of arrests
  • 5 incidents of website attacks
  • 4 incidents of physical harassment or assault
  • 3 incidents of burning of facilities or equipment
  • 3 incidents of journalists being barred from coverage
  • 2 incidents of online harassment
  • 2 incidents of corp. related harassment
  • 2 anti-'fake' news cases
  • 1 slay attempt
  • 1 strafing/shooting incident
  • 1 incident of threat by SMS
  • 1 incident of online libel
  • 1 incident of shutdown

Half of the 61 incidents were allegedly perpetrated by national government officials in the executive branch, Congress officials, police, local government officials and military.

The network—comprising the Philippine Press Institute, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, and MindaNews—previously documented 154 incidents of attacks and threats against news media from June 30, 2016 to December 5, 2019.

The Freedom for Media, Freedom for All network said the promulgation of the decision on Ampatuan massacre after a decade in December last year “did not lighten the dreary landscape of press freedom.”

“It is not surprising that the space for freedom of expression and press freedom has been further constricted in the fourth year of the Duterte administration,” the groups said.

The Philippines placed 136th out of 180 countries on the 2020 World Press Freedom Index of Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders. In 2019, the country ranked 134th.

ABS-CBN’s franchise woes

The network of media groups stressed that the “most highlighted attack” during the period was the threat to shut down broadcasting giant ABS-CBN, whose legislative franchise expires Monday.

There are at least 11 bills on the media giant’s franchise renewal pending before a House of Representative’s committee. The lower chamber held only one hearing on ABS-CBN bid for a fresh franchise, with House leaders saying that the network can operate while the bills are pending.

RELATED: Calida: NTC cannot grant ABS-CBN provisional authority despite lawmakers' requests

The National Telecommunications Commission earlier agreed to issue a provisional authority to allow the media company to operate pending the renewal of its franchise. But Solicitor General Jose Calida on Sunday warned that the NTC may face graft charges if it issues a provisional authority to ABS-CBN.

In February, Calida also moved to strip ABS-CBN of its operating franchise after alleging before the Supreme Court that the company violated provisions of its 25-year legislative franchise.

ABS-CBN had been at the receiving end of Duterte’s tirades for allegedly refusing to carry his campaign commercials even if they have been already paid for and for airing ads paid for by vocal critic former Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV.

READ: At franchise hearing, ABS-CBN scolded for airing election ad against Duterte  

The expiry of the legislative franchise of the country’s top broadcaster comes at a time when the Philippines and the rest of the world are battling the coronavirus pandemic that has infected 3.5 million people. — Gaea Katreena Cabico

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